Columbia City Council members will take the first of two votes tonight on whether to raise your water and sewer rates by 5 percent.
City Manager Steve Gantt’s argument is the city’s sewer system is in bad shape after years of neglect via continuously deferred maintenance projects, and the city needs the rate increase so it can safely borrow $49.2 million in next year’s budget to start fixing the system.
The city has spilled close to 1 million gallons of sewage in 143 separate spills in the past six months, the most of any system in the state, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
From 1992 through 2007, DHEC cited Columbia at least 14 times, either for water-system problems or problems with its sewage system, DHEC records show. Fines those years topped more than $127,000, records show.
Still, every year City Council members take millions of dollars from the city’s water and sewer fund, intended to maintain the system, and move it over into the general fund, which pays for city services like police and fire protection and garbage pickup.